Friday, March 06, 2020

The 2020 RMB Starlight Concert at Vergelegen

It is always a complete delight and and a reason for huge thankfulness when we receive an invitation to attend the RMB Starlight Concert at Vergelegen. It is one of our favourite annual events and we take nothing for granted. After checking in, you walk through the beautiful gardens and then walk through the Manor House to get to the concert venue. Vergelegen was settled in 1700 by Willem Adriaan van der Stel. After Sir Lionel Phillips bought the neglected Vergelegen Estate in 1917, Lady Florence Phillips transformed it into a floral and cultural treasure trove
Welcomed with a glass of one of our favourite Rosé MCCs, the Simonsig Brut Rosé, nicely chilled
The concert is held on the lawn behind the famous, ancient camphor trees and it was buzzing with the patrons,
who had been there for a while. Tickets are sold once a year and are avidly snapped up by fans of this great concert
They bring chairs and umbrellas as well as picnics to enjoy before and during the concert
Vergelegen wines were on sale to enjoy while watching the concert 
and there was Seattle Coffee to warm one up later
We were directed to the invited guest area. where canapés were on offer
Nice and spicy tiny vegetarian tacos
and a chicken variation
We wandered into the huge food area set in the forest and managed to get pictures of the food
before the area was opened for dinner. Huge cheeses and fruit on offer
Smoked salmon to go with the bagels
As well as hot smoked salmon
A cous cous salad
A cheese we had not seen before, covered in smoked paprika
and great wheels of Brie
Grapes, table and wine varietals, in abundance at harvest time
and platters full of Prosciutto ham
A colourful fresh salad of peppers and carrots
Small potato latkes for the smoked salmon
A table with smoked brisket and gammon
Chef Joszka Nagy, formerly owner of Cargill's Restaurant in Rondebosch 
with his gammon
Lynne had some for supper later and it was absolutely the best gammon she has ever had. So tender and almost jellied, with a great flavour and it was not too salty. She did ask Chef Joszka if he might come and cook her gammon next Christmas but, of course, he’ll be rather busy then
She also had some sushi but, sadly, it had been made hours before and the rice was hard and dry. It is a very popular table
On the sushi table, they also had bains marie full of three types of dim sum dumplings - beef, chicken and vegetable
There were lots of different dipping sauces available to add to these and Lynne had a couple, which were rather good
The food is served on tables in the forest and it is a lovely place to eat, with one proviso -
if you can find a table and some chairs. We did finally manage to get two chairs
A huge paella being prepared
and, intelligently, there was a smaller one with mushrooms as, nowadays, so many people do not eat meat or seafood 
A close up of the contents of the large seafood Paella
There was also a curry stand with rice, curries and a huge pile of poppadoms
The curry selection: vegetarian, chicken and lamb curries 
The food menu does not do justice to the available selection. They so spoil us
Tables and chairs on the edge of the forest
And then it was time to take our seats as the concert was about to begin
The Lady Day Big Band was playing to entertain us as we did so
Founded by vocalist Lana Crowster in collaboration with acclaimed vocalist/pianist Amanda Tiffin
and respected trombonist/composer Kelly Bell, it is SA’s first all-female big band
Conductor Richard Cock chatting to a guest
The paying patrons sit behind the invited guests
The huge camphor trees in front of the early 18th Century Manor House
And the concert got off to a rousing start with variations on the 9th (Choral) Symphony, Für Elise, the 6th (Pastoral) Symphony and other famous Beethoven works to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven, who was born in 1770. This was conducted by Richard Cock with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Brandon Phillips, who is the Resident Conductor with this orchestra, shared the load at the Concert with Richard Cock. Someone rarely lauded for his work on this brilliant concert is the Director, Darren Hayward
We managed to commandeer the last aisle seat, right at the back,
so John could take photographs without dodging the heads of guests
A welcoming speech from Rand Merchant Bank’s CEO, James Formby, who told us that this is the 22nd Starlight Concert held at Vergelegen and that their partnership comes from RMB's commitment to investing in the Arts. He also told us of their support of the Hands of Hope charity who made the wine bags we received as gifts. He spoke about "Thinking" and having a clear vision of what we want as a country for our future. We need to be fearless thinkers to sort out the many challenges we face. He told us of the Fearless Thinker statues which are on their Sandton campus and also in front of their Portside offices in Cape Town. We need to work together, to focus on what we have and work towards achieving our goals
We then all stood to sing the National Anthem while watching a montage of pictures of our rowing team
who will go to the Olympics this year, sponsored by RMB. They were Gold medallists at the last Olympics
Then a song from the talented Mzansi Youth Choir, widely regarded as the best show choir in the country
Established in July 2003 with the aim of affording talented, underprivileged teenagers and young adults (14-24 years)
the opportunity to perform proficiently locally and abroad
The choir consists of 45 choristers from Soweto and other areas in and around Johannesburg
They have performed at the Presidential Inauguration and also with Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and Celtic Women
Conductor Richard Cock announcing the next performer
Teenager Likhwithemba 'Likhey' Booi from Port Elizabeth has become a sensation on Instagram
Famous South African Opera singer Pretty Yende, who is performing in Manon at the Opera Bastille in Paris,
sent a video message to her sister Nombulelo Yende, winner of the Neue Stimmen in 2019,
and performing at Starlight this year, to wish her good luck
Her first performance was a beautiful rendition of an aria by Verdi
Then Jonathan Roxmouth, international musical theatre star, whom RMB flew home from Korea
where he is in the world tour of Phantom of the Opera, sang a selection of songs from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story
Acclaimed South African tenor Siyabonga Maqungo currently performing with the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim,
who is the Musical Director there. He gave us a beautiful rendition of Franz Lehár’s "Freunde, das Leben ist Lebenswert"
(Friends, life is worth living)
Contestant on The Voice 2019 Lelo Ramasimong sang I Wanna Dance with Somebody, accompanied by the JazzArt dancers
Jonathan Roxmouth and TV star Katlego Maboe who hosts Express TV and appears in those TV ads for car insurance
sang a very moving version of Song For You by Donnie Hathaway
Siyabonga Maqungo and Nombulelo Yende sang the beautiful love duet from La Bohème, O soave fanciulla
It sent shivers down our backs, it was so moving
The new moon in a cloudless sky 
The TV camera men were right behind us!
Jonathan Roxmouth and the UCT Jazz Choir performed a rousing version of Anthem from Chess
Seen here with the Choir
Amanda Black sang Sing Out with the Jazz Art dancers and the Mzantsi Youth Choir
The famous quartet from Rigoletto, Bella Figlia Dell Amor, was stirringly sung by four voices,
a soprano, a tenor, a mezzo soprano and a bass whose voices melded so beautifully
Katlego Maboe, in a solo, began a medley about the sky
and was joined by all the other major performers with the Galaxy of Blue
At interval, we met Vergelegen winemaker André van Rensburg with his wife Maritza
and wine merchant Wade Bales with his friend
702/Cape Talk Radio presenter Bruce Whitfield at the gammon stand; he loved it as much as Lynne had
The second half began and Richard Cock was in his new RMB Blue tuxedo
He showed us the new Starlight clef logo
and said that three of the RMB founders were there that night
Next a performance by the UCT Jazz Choir of some great old jazz numbers including
In the Mood, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Mac the Knife and If You Ain't Got That Swing... with dancers from JazzArt
Lynne used to dance with Pam Hickman, a very good modern dance teacher, who herself was taught by Martha Graham
JazzArt came out of that dance class, way back in the 1960s
The UCT Jazz Choir in full voice!
Singing the duet from Don Giovanni, Là ci darem la mano, are Bongani Kubheka and Nombulelo Yende
having lots of fun
And then it was our time to light our candles, which were provided to all of the audience, and sing along. Richard Cock had us singing Beethoven's Ode to Joy, from the final movement of his 9th Symphony, in honour of his 250th anniversary later this year. How did we do it? Well, the words were rendered phonetically on the screen and, after one rehearsal, we managed very well. It is also known as the European Anthem for the EEC. Some of us learned it in school choirs. It was great fun
He asked us who had sung in a choir and to hold up our candles if we had - many went up
Nombulelo Yende then gave us a beautiful rendition of Never Enough from The Greatest Showman;
she can also perform songs from musicals very well
Jonathan Roxmouth took a selfie with the audience and their candles
On his white grand piano, he gave a stirring rendition of Piano Man and we all sang the Chorus La di Dah!
A tribute to Vincent van Gogh was a very good duet with guitar of Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) by Don McLean,
performed by Bongani Kubheka and Katlego Maboe, in both English and Italian
A montage of van Gogh's famous Starry Night painting was on the screen behind
followed by a rousing version of Whitney Huston's Olympic anthem One Moment in Time
to remind us of the support given by RMB to the rowers in 2016 and their continuing support in 2020 at the Olympics in Japan 
A fantastic rendition by Jonathan Roxmouth and Nombulelo Yende of Say You Love Me from The Phantom of the Opera
had people standing and cheering
with dancers at the back of the stage
And then a juke box selection of very modern pop songs by the Jazz Choir and some of the performers
A few songs from the stage show of The Lion King included the choirs, the dancers and many of the performers
And we applauded all the cast members and choirs as they came on stage for their final bow
The entire cast takes a final bow but there is always a huge chorus of Encore!, or MORE!
Jonathan Roxmouth with a fantastic and very emotional version of The Beauty of the Night from Phantom of the Opera
and this year they had a fantastic idea for another encore
We all, audience and cast, would sing along to the words of Bohemian Rhapsody
made famous by the late and very talented Freddie Mercury and Queen
The words were on the screen and everyone sang along with gusto and joy
What a fabulous way to end the concert. Thank you RMB
At least some people were attempting to clean up the horrendous mess left by some of the guests
We are always supplied with rubbish bags and fill them for disposal and recycling by Vergelegen,
but not everyone gets the message, sadly
The Camphor trees are lit and so resemble walking Ents in the dark as one leaves

1 comment:

Hardy said...

Oddly we went on the Friday night and occupied the exact same seats that you did.

On Friday - I am not sure the forest meal idea worked as well. We could not find a table to sit and in other cases food was running low or was not as good as we had experienced prior.

Still a great event and one of our favourites.